One of the most important tenets for those of us in academia, is that education needs to be a top priority. Many would argue, in fact, that it needs to be the top priority! Every so often, however, circumstances arise that can change our perspective.

A unique situation arose for Chris within the past week… at least one that he had not encountered in over four years of being a biochemistry teaching assistant. Three of his students in the 4000-level course that he teaches, Immunochemistry (Twitter/Facebook) are in fact varsity soccer athletes; two female soccer players, one male soccer player. As it turned out, for the first time ever (though that has yet to be confirmed) the women’s soccer team made the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) playoffs. As such, Chris’ two female students needed to leave for PEI ahead of a previously-scheduled Immunochemistry midterm on the evening of November 1st. What to do? Fortunately, both girls expressed a preference to write the midterm ahead of time, rather than to have it weighing on their minds during the playoffs. Therefore, on Wednesday morning, more than 24 hours ahead of the scheduled midterm time, both girls stepped up to the plate, assumed responsibility, and wrote their midterms early.

Within the same week, the male student-soccer player expressed an interest in going to an AUS banquet, also being held in PEI on Thursday night. Again, he was happy to write his midterm ahead of time, rather than defer it until after returning from his athletic event. And so, on Thursday morning, 8.5 hours ahead of schedule, he wrote his Immunochemistry midterm, and proceeded to PEI afterwards. He did promise, when leaving, that should he win the award he was hoping to receive at the banquet, he would tweet about it and give a deserved “shout out.”

… hours later, Chris Vizena, recipient of the Student-Athlete Community Service Award, made good on his promise!

The situation raises some interesting points. While it has often been thought that academics should be the exclusive top priority, that may no longer be in the best interests of students; certainly academics should never be marginalized , but other priorities need to be recognized as well. Interestingly, Maclean’s magazine (which consistently ranks Mount Allison as a top undergraduate university) recently postulated that medical schools are nowadays seeking more well-rounded applicants, to which Canadian universities such as the University of Manitoba would agree that playing sports is important for team-building skills. Faculty members are also increasingly being encouraged to list students’ non-academic attributes in reference letters for professional schools or scholarship/fellowship applications. We are now being forced to recognize that while grades and GPAs remain ever-important, competition is increasing, and academic excellence in itself is no longer enough.

Admittedly, what made this situation easier, was that all three students took the initiative to offer to write the midterm ahead of its scheduled time, rather than at a later date!

Certainly food for thought… congratulations to Chris Vizena once again and thanks for the shout out!

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